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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
N Korean asylum bid in Beijing school
North Korean asylum seekers
The group huddled on a staircase outside the school
At least 15 North Koreans have broken into a compound housing a school run by the German embassy in Beijing.

The group scaled a two metre (6.6 feet) high wall in an apparent asylum bid as classes were taking place at around 1520 (0720 GMT), witnesses said.


We were in the class. They just came over the fence and sat there

Carsten Muhl, student
More than an hour later, the men and women, who appear to be in their 20s and 30s, could be seen sitting on the stairs outside one of the school's buildings as police formed a ring around the school perimeter.

Since March at least 80 North Korean asylum seekers have entered foreign embassies in the Chinese capital, but this is the first time they have entered a school.

The incident comes just a day after Chinese police detained another group of North Koreans who attempted to get into the Ecuadorean embassy.

Jurisdiction query

"We were in the class. They just came over the fence and sat there. The number two of the school came and explained the situation to us and said we have to leave now," 17-year-old student Carsten Muhl said.

According to AP news agency, the North Koreans could be seen walking through the hallways of an apartment building in the complex for German diplomats, before a security guard chased them out.

The group then sat on an outdoor staircase of the school, which is next to the apartment building.

Uniformed and plain clothed police have surrounded the complex and have ordered all foreign journalists to leave the area.

Chinese police outside the Ecuador embassy
On Monday police blocked another asylum bid

It is unclear whether the school is regarded as German embassy territory. If so, the police would have no jurisdiction to enter the school grounds and remove the group.

Germany's ambassador to China, Joachim Broudre-Groeger and the chief of the embassy's political section have visited the school, but declined to make any comment.

On Monday a dozen others North Koreans tried to enter the Ecuadorean diplomatic compound in Beijing, but were blocked by Chinese guards.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans have fled starvation and repression in their homeland and slipped over land borders to China during recent years.

But China has a treaty with its ally North Korea which requires it to send them back to the hard-line Communist state.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Brookes reports from Beijing
"It is not clear whether it is sovereign diplomatic territory"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

21 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
15 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
20 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
14 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 May 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
13 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
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